Former President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Onikolease Irabor, has commended the Federal Government for embarking on the concession of terminal operations to private companies.
While speaking with newsmen in Benin, the Edo State capital over the weekend, Irabor said he was delighted that private terminal operators are enhancing efficiency at the port.
Irabor, who is a former Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said there was need for the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to build new seaports, particularly the Gelegele seaport in Edo State and rehabilitate others in Delta and in Rivers States. Doing so, he said, would reduce the cost of doing business in the areas and create more jobs.
Justifying the concession of the ports instead of outright sales to private investors, Irabor, who is also the Special Adviser on Environment to Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomole, said: “We visited the Port of Antwerp (Belgium) and other parts of the world to see how their seaports were working. We discovered that we could do something similar to the Port of Antwep, which was not totally sold but the operational areas were given out to people to operate. But the port belongs to the country. We insisted that our seaports must belong to Nigeria because if they had sold the ports, the country would not be safe security wise.
“The ports have been concessioned for over five years now and the dividends are there. The concessionaires are working fine even though Nigerians continue to demand more from them, particularly in areas of job creation. They have reduced the traffic on the high seas, unlike in the past. If the ports were sold, there would have been no Nigerian Ports Authoriy (NPA) today.
“As President General emeritus (of MWUN), l cannot say the concessionaires have done everything, but they have done well. As at today, to the best of my knowledge – and I am watching them with keen interest – they have been operating and they have not done badly. They are doing well. But we need more to be done.
“I will score them more than average. If you talk of security, they are on ground in the ports. This was not there before. If you talk of traffic flow, they are there also checking congestion.”